Global Elite Notes

SOC 189 – #1 Exam 1. Is meritocracy fair? Discuss the pros and cons of our achievement-oriented society. Does it give rise to a meritorious elite? Why or why not? This country was founded on the principle that one’s status in society should be determined by your individual achievements, not by your conditions at birth. The idea is that we are all created equal, with equal opportunities, not results. The concept of meritocracy is essential to our ideas about American exceptionalism.
A benefit of using meritocracy is that people are getting credit and success for their achievements – which is something everyone have control over and can do something about. This also creates motivation to work hard among the people. When the people are eager to improve them selves, it increases the level of intelligence in the society. This will result in good leaders, which will hopefully lead the society to success. According to this, meritocracy sounds like a good idea, but it does not always have a happy ending.
Not everyone is up for hard work and competition, and the competition can easily depress some of us and make them give up in the society. The class stratification can get bigger with this kind of society, with the poor people at the bottom. It will create a winner – looser relationship between people, and many will not be happy. Many may say that it is fair because you get what you deserve, and what you have worked so hard for. But there are also many “corrupt deals” going on here. School test are supposed to be totally fair, when the smartest and those who score highest is getting in to the best schools.

The problem is that the kids with richer families are being prepared for the test by expensive tutors, when kids with less money cannot afford it. Some tests even cost money, so not everyone is getting the chance. The people at the top have found ways to “cheat” their way up in the meritocracy society, where it is supposed to be the ones who deserves it, the best of us who gets the opportunities. Now there is fewer and fewer skillsets that is seen as useful to the society, so fewer and fewer people gets credit and reward for your achievements
If you work hard, you achieve big. The concept is good, because it gives people a chance to make it in the world by your skills and achievement – things you have control over, instead of your ascribed factors that you were born into like race, gender, culture and family-class. Meritocracy was coined by Michael Young, a british sociologist, political activist and social critic. He introduced the concept in 1958 in his book The rise of the Meritocracy. The winners of this system believes it is fair! Cons: Ability is highly concentrated by the engine of education * Over time, schools have put their seal of approval on a narrower and narrower range of people – and in an earlier and earlier stage * The top people of the hierarchy believe that their advancement comes from their own merit, and that they deserve whatever they can get. * And those who fail, are relegated to the bottom of the social hierarchy in addition to being less advantaged, the poor now have to deal with the shame of lacking in merit. People at the economic elite have found ways to cheat their way to the top, using their money to buy their children private tutors to success in schools approval-tests – still fair? Pros: * Gives everyone essentially a fair chance * Gives you credit for your skills and achievement, not by your ascribed factors. * Don’t judge your background * It reward/punish you by something you can control 2. For each of the following five scholars, please describe their contribution to the study of elites: * Laura Nader
There is now a lot of literature on the poor, the disadvantages, women, blacks and various racial/ethnic groups. There is very little literature of the top of the class people. Laura Nadel encouraged anthropologists to ”study up” in the early 1970s by writing the book “Up the Anthropologist – Perspectives Gained From Studying Up” in 1969. This was a try to get anthropologists to think more about the study of the colonizes rather than the colonized, the culture of power rather than the culture of powerless. But not many followed her advice, sociologists who do research on elites can be counted on two hands.
Nader thinks it’s important to study elites because it is an important contribution to any study of inequality – whether down, sideways, or through (1972). * Gaetano Mosca Elite rule is not a moral question, but a social fact. Most societies are ruled by a small number of individuals – and Mosca called this minority the “ruling class”. Mosca was the first to make a systematic distinction between elite and masses. He says that in every society, it appears two classes of people: A class that rules and a class that is ruled.
The rulers class is small in number, performs all political functions, monopolizes power and enjoys the advantages that power brings. The ruled class, the masses, is directed and controlled by the rulers – in a manner that now is more or less legal, arbitrary and violent. He believes that this class was made distinctive by their superior organizational skills – they were organized. Elites superiority was learned, not inherited. And therefor he suspected it to be more circulation of elites, than reproduction * E. Digby Baltzell Baltzell studied American businessmen of colonial stock.
Baltzell believed that the elites ancestors had come to America as poor immigrants and they seized whatever economic opportunities they could. They were the Robber Barons – rising above the rest of the society, living in big mansions, employed servants and socialized in exclusive clubs. They educated their children in private schools, entered the professions and travelled to Europe while steadily setting themselves apart from ordinary Americans. Snobbete mann, men pa rtoss av det kom han med en god kritisk evaluering av eliten – grunnen til at de har holdt seg sa sterke er fordi de incorporate new immigrants into it ranks
Baltzell provided a powerfully critical assessment of American society and the elites that ruled it. He believed that the Protestant Establishment was especially powerful, because it incorporated new immigrants and less wealthy people into its ranks: the more a ruling class is able to assimilate the most prominent men of the dominant classes, the more stable and dangerous it becomes(Karl Marx). * Niccolo Machiavelli Was an Italian historian, politician, diplomat, writer and philosopher. He wrote The Prince in 1532, where he is positive to political elite theory.
He means that masterful leaders can be enormously cunning, resourceful and influential. Political parties, masses and interest groups are all controllable: a leader who knows how to use his resources wisely can be powerfully independent. In The Prince, he writes that the prince (a leader) should be a strategic man, willing to be ruthless, be powerful – an independent leader. * Pierre Bourdieu Bourdieu examined the way culture, cultural consumption and lifestyles reproduce the privileged positions of the upper class in France, and not only reflect them.
He wondered how class structure could be reproduced across generations, when school systems use meritocracy principles to reward people. He found that different classes have different ways of being in the world – he called it Habitus (ways of being). Bourdieu sees Cultural Capital as class-specific cultural codes and practices. The Habitus of the family is passed onto children in the social environment of the home. Children who gets exposed to elite culture at home are advantaged in the school system as teachers reward being conversant in the dominant culture – and that’s how the elite classes gets reproduced.
Culture reproduces class positions. People are looking for “the right culture background” in others, and reward people for this. 3. Some argue that an economic oligarchy is on the rise in America today. What do you think? Use empirical evidence to substantiate your claims. The economic elite are the 0. 1% – 1% of the elites, and today economic elite power is on the rise. The divide between the very wealthy and everyone else is increasing on a worldwide scale, and it has done this since the 1980s. Elites are the engines of inequality, and the balance of power is skewed heavily and increasingly in their favor.
This is not the first time in US history that we have worried about a rise of an oligarchy; The Gilded Age (1870s-1890s) marked the speedy rise of a very wealthy and increasingly exclusive economic elite in the US. They were driven by a lust for money, and had wealth in railroads, manufacturing, mining, oil and land. The elites were ruthless, egoistic and cruel. Many scholars now speak of a new gilded age in America. We have again a big lust for wealth, speculation and unethical business behaviors. But there is also some differences; 1. Todays elites are wealthier 2. They are increasingly concentrated in the financial sector 3.
They are more diverse and international 4. They are more likely to be self made, not made from inherited fortune Over time, much greater income and wealth went to the top percent of the people. The top get paid better, get a bigger piece of the income-cake. They are also doing better than the rest of us other vice; better health, more optimistic, better chances of sending children to college, better life quality in general. They are opportunity hoarders, of opportunities that gives better life chances. This is also passed on in the family – if father is rich, it is a big chance that the son as well will become rich.
The economic elite dominates the government in many ways, to keep the rise of the oligarchy steady: * The special interest process: through financial support and extensive lobbying, they are able to gain government favors, tax breaks and regulatory ruling what protects their interests. * Policy making process: influence public policy makers through media connections etc. Business experts and advisors are appointed to government committees. * Appointments to government: The high-level government appointees are often chosen from the ranks of the business elite.
They fund and influence members of the Congress. The economic elites also maintains by reproducing and circulating themselves. They reproduce by having the same cultural background (same elite schools, same world beliefs, hanging out at the same places, listen to the same music etc – and this is learned into the child from the family). They circulate between positions by sitting on the boards of many organizations at the same time (we often se the same person being in top at both an political and economic leadership organization. They circulate horizontally).
Robert Michels is positive to elite leadership: Elite rule is inevitable in modern, bureaucratic organizations. Direct democracy is an impossibility, and organizational imperatives makes elite rule inevitable regardless of the ideological orientation of leaders. The masses are necessarily incompetent, and their large size makes organization impossible There need to be leaders. This is the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Elite leadership is a technical requisite of all modern bureaucracies. It would be chaos with only masses and democracy, and no leaders. Veblen argues against elite leadership.
He means that all the winners in societies have forced the losers to perform degrading and difficult tasks – that again have been the functionally and more important tasks in society. By contrast, elites seem to define themselves by their leisure and consumption(fritid og forbruk). Mosca: The power elite is a social fact, but also a social problem. It’s a social problem because of it’s circulating and reproducing factors and their similar characters – they think alike, have similar social and cultural backgrounds, similar opinions and points of view.
They have made a winner-takes-it-all society that they all benefit from, so they work hard together to make it stay that way. The top elite makes the American Dream fade for the rest 99% of society. The American upper class is different from the European upper class; it is made up from successful businessmen and lawyers. They are also closely connected to each other, by a shared education, common patterns of socialization, social networks and therefor have similar mindsets. Economic Oligarchy on the rise in America today Empirical evidence: the top 1% of the population gets 17% of all the wealth * top athletes win dozens of sponsorship deals, while competitors that finish seconds behind struggle to attract a single deal. * America has become a winner-take-all society; very few winners take a large chunk of the economic pie, leaving the rest with much less to share. * The oligarchy is rising worldwide * Massive expansion of income concentration beginning in the 1980s * Thousands have become unemployed since 2008, while CEOs have continued to receive bonuses and wage increases. Many have lost their retirement savings when the market crashed, while the economic elite continued to enjoy the Bush tax cuts and boosted their life savings. Two arguments for Elite rule: 1. Human nature: * Human beings are inherently different in talents and abilities * Those who have the most of a certain kind of ability constitute some kind of an elite 2. Social organization: * Elites are necessary for a large social organization to function * Elitist tendencies are found in political organizations, trade unions and bureaucratic firms * Complex organizations need trained and experienced leaders.
Tell my opinion and experiences! 4. For each of the four concepts below, please describe the concept, identify an author that is associated with it, and describe its significance for the study of elites: * Iron law of oligarchy With Michels in the front this represents the conflict between democracy and oligarchy. He meant that the masses are incompetent and democracy will only lead to chaos in organizations. In that way the oligarchy is inevitable and elites are necessary for an organization to work. Mosca? s opinion is that ruling elites are a social fact, which means that there will always be a ruling class in a society.
He characterized them as superior and distinctive. He meant that the ruling elite behavior was learned and not inherited. Therefor it is more circulation than reproduction in the elite class. The ruling class is good to organize comparing to the masses and therefore it will always exist. * Culture of critical discourse Gouldner. The culture of critical discourse (CDD) is characterized by speech that is relatively more situation-free, more context of field “independent”. is an historically evolved set of rules, a grammar of discourse.
The culture of critical speech requires that the validity of claims be justified without reference to the speakers societal position or authority. The new class is the intellectual elite Maten a snakke pa, v? re pa uten a nevne deg selv (v? re objektiv) – den nye eliten er intellektuell elite. 2 nye eliter I dag, intellektuell og teknologisk(beste I sitt felt). Nar man argumenterer for sine mater a se verden pa, gjor man det uten a snakke om sin egen mate a se verden pa – det skulle v? re riktig, faktum, ikke ha noe om hvor man kom fra. Det er det man sier som betyr noe, ikke bakgrunn.
Ny mate a se pa verden pa, ikke ekskluderende men vil mingle med resten. Vil holde seg over andre ved eget sprak, men slipper andre inn hvis de jobber hardt nok. * Allegory of the cave Plato. Who could be the just ruler of society? The just ruler has to know the truth, be responsible and willing to make sacrifices that need to be made to be the leader. The story: people in a cave looking at shadows – believing this is the truth and the real world, one is released and get to get out to see the truth. You need to be released from the dominant chain of looking at the world – the masses, and when you are released THEN you can se the truth.
True leaders needs to go back and lead the people into the truth. May face death and humiliation. Who are the just leaders? * Graveyard of aristocracies Pareto argues that people are unequal physically, as well as intellectually and morally. In society as a whole, and in any of its particular strata and groupings, some people are more gifted than others. Those who are most capable in any particular grouping are the elite. Meritocracy. Circulation of elites, skills going lost because society and it needs changes. 5. Who governs America? Describe three contrasting positions that we talked about in class.
Which of these three do you find most compelling in characterizing the American political elite? Why? Given the existence of economic inequalities, who actually governs in democratic societies? We find three conflicting answers in literature: Pluralist view: Political parties organize the unorganized; they give power to the powerless – elites represent majority will Interest group view: Political parties are nothing more than a collection of interest groups – elites represent group interests Oligarchy argument: Democracy is a mere facade, political elites represent the interests of social and/or economic elites
C. Wright Mills believes that it is the Power Elite who rules America. The Power Elite is composed of a big business, leading military officials, and members of the executive branch of government. They make key decisions them between, circulate between positions and share similar cultural/political views. They are interconnected by similar social backgrounds, shared education and their positional interests. By these factors, they manage to rule America by sharing the same opinions in decision-making. Obama – charismatic

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